Mr. Speaker, this is the second time I am rising in the House, after asking my first question last week. First, I want to thank my constituents in Berthier—Maskinongé for placing their trust in me. I am honoured to rise in this House to represent them. I will represent their interests every day.
I would also like to highlight the work of Guy André who worked for seven years for the people of Berthier—Maskinongé. Although we have differing opinions on the type of country we want to build, we share the same passion for our community and the same commitment to helping our fellow citizens.
Communities like mine did not simply choose a new member of Parliament. On May 2 they sent a clear message: we want a new way of doing politics; we can change things; we can do better. That is the message sent by 1.5 million Quebeckers. They rallied behind the NDP's vision for a better Canada, a Canada where families are a priority and where no one is left behind, a country Quebeckers can identify with, that reflects their progressive values. I humbly accept the mandate they have given me. That is why we are here today instead of in our ridings. I wish the people of Berthier—Maskinongé a happy national holiday, even if the calendar in the House shows that it is still June 23.
On this Quebec national holiday, I would like to wish my constituents, the people of Berthier—Maskinongé, a very happy holiday, surrounded by family and friends. I had in fact planned to join the people of my riding to take part in activities organized for the national holiday. This morning I was supposed to attend celebrations in Lanoraie for the first time as a member of Parliament. I had hoped to say a few words there during the flag raising. I wanted to thank Dominique Bellemare for all his efforts in organizing the events for the national holiday, even though it is raining cats and dogs there.
I would also like to thank Céline Bastien, the people of Sainte-Ursule who invited me to attend the festivities for the 175th anniversary of the canonization of Sainte-Ursule. I hope to be able to join everyone on Saturday to celebrate the pride that the people of Sainte-Ursule feel towards their municipality. Once again, I thank them for their invitation and I wish them a happy holiday.
Instead of being with them, I am here in the House of Commons to stand up for the rights of Canada Post employees, and we are proud to be here. As we discuss this situation, it is important to understand it and to know why we are here. After the Canadian Union of Postal Workers began a series of rotating strikes, the union offered to put an end to its strike action if the corporation would agree to reinstate the previous contract during negotiations, but Canada Post Corporation refused.
On June 15, Canada Post decided to lock out its employees and shut down services. On June 20, the Prime Minister introduced regressive legislation in order to impose a contract on Canada Post employees that actually includes wages that are lower than what the employer was offering.
This is not a strike, but a lockout.
Let us turn to Bill C-6, the back-to-work legislation introduced by the federal government to penalize postal workers and to reward Canada Post for locking out employees and stopping mail delivery nationwide.
The bill legislates wage increases below what Canada Post had put on the table. The final offer mentioned a 1.9% increase for 2011, 2012 and 2013 and a 2% increase for 2014, well below the 3.3% rate of inflation.
Under the bill, the Conservatives are proposing increases of 1.75% in 2011, 1.5% in 2012, 2% in 2013 and 2% in 2014. According to CUPW, Canada Post's focus on concessions make further negotiations impossible.
CUPW members are fighting because they do not want loopholes in their collective agreement, and they are against the wage cutbacks Canada Post wants to impose on future employees
Here is what Denis Lemelin, national president of CUPW, had to say:
We believe in free speech, free association, and free collective bargaining. [It is important.] This legislation hurts the values that our country stands for and is an attack on workers’ rights and standard of living.
New Democrats also believe in these values. That is why we are here, in the House of Commons, standing up for the rights of Canadian workers.
Let me give the House some examples from my riding. When we talk about this situation, it is important to recognize the impact it can have on all Canadians. I have a few examples from my riding of Berthier—Maskinongé.
Jacques Meunier, owner of Chroma Peint in Saint-Alexis-des-Monts, explained to me that his operations were being disrupted by the Canada Post lockout. Since he owns a body shop, most of his business comes from customers who were in a car accident and have made a claim to their insurance company.
Insurance companies cannot mail cheques because of the lockout. Mr. Meunier has to cover the cost of the various parts he orders from his suppliers without knowing when he will be able to collect the insurance payments and receive the fees that are owed to him.
For a small business like his, the situation is quite serious and difficult.
Mr. Meunier also told me that this week, despite the situation at Canada Post, he received a statement from Revenue Canada. That is a double standard.
I have another example from a student from my riding.
To go on a school trip to the United States, a student in my riding asked Quebec's registrar of civil status to issue her a birth certificate.
The person in charge assured her that if the postal services were interrupted, the certificate would be sent by courier. However, the certificate was mailed before the lockout and was never delivered to the student.
Since the birth certificate was mailed, Quebec's registrar of civil status could not do anything about it. The student and her family were very worried, but the mother made several telephone calls to the authorities to ensure that her daughter could go on the trip.
The population of Berthier—Maskinongé is aging and a number of municipalities are seeing an exodus of young people to the large centres. It is hard because seniors do not use the Internet as much as young people do.
Many voters in Berthier—Maskinongé chose to place their confidence in the NDP. We are here to work for people.
We have to work together for all Canadians. We simply want the lockout to end and people to go back to work.